Just to make their tasks more difficult, the firehose is difficult to use, it sputters on occasion due to "glitches" in the water pumps, and sometimes even emits fouled water due to problems at the reservoir or connecting pipes, without frequent "workarounds" and mental gymnastics by the clinicians. I've seen it personally in the care of relatives.
This is far from the dream of Medical Informatics, whose specialists viewed IT as a tool to reduce cognitive overload and make healthcare provision more efficient.
Why is information overload a bad thing?
New York Times
In New Military, Data Overload Can Be Deadly
By THOM SHANKER and MATT RICHTEL
January 16, 2011
When military investigators looked into an attack by American helicopters last February that left 23 Afghan civilians dead, they found that the operator of a Predator drone had failed to pass along crucial information about the makeup of a gathering crowd of villagers.
But Air Force and Army officials now say there was also an underlying cause for that mistake: information overload.
At an Air Force base in Nevada, the drone operator and his team struggled to work out what was happening in the village, where a convoy was forming. They had to monitor the drone’s video feeds while participating in dozens of instant-message and radio exchanges with intelligence analysts and troops on the ground.
There were solid reports that the group included children, but the team did not adequately focus on them amid the swirl of data — much like a cubicle worker who loses track of an important e-mail under the mounting pile. The team was under intense pressure to protect American forces nearby, and in the end it determined, incorrectly, that the villagers’ convoy posed an imminent threat, resulting in one of the worst losses of civilian lives in the war in Afghanistan.
“Information overload — an accurate description,” said one senior military officer, who was briefed on the inquiry and spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case might yet result in a court martial. The deaths would have been prevented, he said, “if we had just slowed things down and thought deliberately.”
Data is among the most potent weapons of the 21st century. Unprecedented amounts of raw information help the military determine what targets to hit and what to avoid. And drone-based sensors have given rise to a new class of wired warriors who must filter the information sea. But sometimes they are drowning.
Research shows that the kind of intense multitasking required in such situations can make it hard to tell good information from bad. The military faces a balancing act: how to help soldiers exploit masses of data without succumbing to overload.
Read the entire NY Times piece.
I have no other comments to offer, other than (as the military seems to recognize for its own needs through engaging experts in domains such as neuroscience), the time to "accelerate interdisciplinary research in biomedical informatics, computer science, social science, and health care engineering" as recommended in 2009 by the National Research Council is before the attempted national rollout of hundreds of billions of dollars of technology.
The time to do so is not during - and certainly not after - the HITECH-led medical re-engineering attempt.
Finally, unlike the health IT industry, I don't see the military attributing these issues to "Luddite soldiers."